Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

AlyssaM CoachCard Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC, Director, Program + Community Advancement

At Soccer Shots, we pride ourselves on being a positive introduction to organized sports, as well as a supportive, engaging, and FUN environment in which to learn. But we have to set boundaries too. With sometimes upwards of 50 children in the park at a time, we have to be careful to keep our groups engaged, a little “crazy” having fun, but also “under control.”

If you were to sit on the side of a field, and listen, I mean really listen to the words our coaches use, you might realize they choose their words carefully, and with purpose. Sure, some of it’s meant to engage, and generate buy in from the kids, but other times it’s more than that. Here are three things you’ll probably hear when our coaches might (or might not) give a child an “option” to do something (and why).

1. “It’s okay if you don’t want to join in right now, I’ll come back and check in with you in ….. hmm, how many minutes do you think I should wait before coming back?”  

We’ve all had that time, even as adults, where we were unsure, not ready, and we needed a little time before we jumped head first into something new. When children are new to Soccer Shots, shy, or a little unsure, we don’t force them to join in. We give them the option of taking their time. Engaging them in the process by asking “how many minutes should I give you…?” allows them to have their space, but also be a part of the plan to join in later on.

It’s so important to come back, check in again, and show them that you can be trusted. I can’t count how many times this has worked for me in getting a child to engage. This, of course though, is dependent upon having the time to wait.

2. “Let’s all do a stop position!” vs. “Can we do a stop position?” Screen Shot 2015 03 26 at 3.36.54 PM Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

This is one of the most common pieces of feedback, I give our coaches when I am in the field observing our classes. Phrase the desired behavior as a fun command, versus a request. When you ask a group if they “can” do something, inevitably you’ll have one child that thinks… “hmmm. I can…. but not now,” or “I’m not sure I can,” and even just, “no, I can’t.” Set your children, and your self up for success, try to get them excited to do what you’re asking, especially if it’s non-negotiable.

3. “I can help you move out of the goal, or you can move yourself, this is not safe for your body.” Which sometimes turns into, “I am going to have to help you move by helping you get up, ready? One… Two… Three…”  

SAFETY. Always important. We try to make this an option at first, as a sign of respect to the child we are working with, but sometimes it becomes necessary to intervene for the child’s safety. You’ll notice though, that even in intervening, we are still letting the child know what is coming, and to some degree still giving them a chance to take ownership and do what is needed on their own.